An Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper was shot and killed early Friday morning while serving an arrest warrant. Trooper Rocky Eales, a 20-year veteran of the patrol, grew up in McAlester, and members of that community are mourning his loss.
A gun fight started after the O-H-P and a multi-county drug task force tried to arrest 38-year-old Kenny Barrett. Investigators say he skipped a trial where he faced drug charges. They also suspected he had a meth lab in operation. The Highway Patrol says the trooper's tactical team was ambushed as soon as they pulled into Barrett's yard. "It's one of those things where we try to prepare for anything. In this case, shots were fired immediately," said O-H-P Lieutenant Stewart Myer.
Eales was a passenger in an unmarked Bronco. The driver, 14-year O-H-P veteran Buddy Hamilton, was hit by bullet fragments in the shoulder and face. Doctors say he will recover from his wounds. Authorities say Barrett was also injured when other officers returned fire.
Barrett's family says he has a previous history of mental illness. His mother says she was trying to find help for her son. She blames the system, not the officers. The district attorney says Barrett made the ultimate mistake and she'll go after the harshest penalty "We will file charges and we will seek the death penalty,"said Dianne Barker-Harrold. "Sometimes in homicide cases, we don't make that decision immediately. This time, it's an easy decision to make, " she said.
The O-H-P says a trooper hasn't died in the line of duty since 1990. Troopers say Eales's death is tough on all of them, but they are now focusing on helping his family. "We just try to pick up and support their family as much as we can," said Myers. "It's an ordeal where we are all going to do some suffering. We will try to do it together." Flags are at half-staff at McAlester's Highway Patrol Troop "D" in honor of Rocky Eales.